So you’ve scoped out apartments online, research the neighborhoods you may want to live in, and found the dream apartment. What’s next?

The next step is to go through the rental application process. It’s the first step to settling into a new home.

37% of renters live in apartments. So there is a good chance you may come up against some competition when finding your new home.

Below is our guide on how to successfully complete the rental application from start to end.

1. Fill out the rental application

Once you’ve found your dream apartment, contact the leasing office to get a rental application. If you need a co-signer or plan on living with roommates, they will also need to fill out the rental application. Every person planning to move in needs to fill out a separate rental application form. Rental application forms will often be online or can also be done in person.

While each form may be different from the other, you can expect most applications to require the following information:

  • Photo Identification (Driver’s License, ID card or Passport)
  • Full Name
  • Current Address
  • Previous Address
  • Phone Number(s)
  • E-mail
  • Employment and Income Information
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Background Information
  • Landlord References
  • Personal or Professional References
  • Credit Score
  • Pets (if applicable)

2. Pay the apartment application fee

Some applications may require an application fee. The fee is often required to run credit and background checks and process your application. It may also include any processing fees to cover the cost of screening applicants.

The rent application fee is also dependent on many other factors such as the property, landlord, and area in which you are applying.

It’s a good idea to ask the property manager about all the fees associated with the application process. We always ask if fees are refundable in the event that they decide to offer the apartment unit to someone else.

3. Complete credit and background checks

With most apartment application processes, you’ll most likely be asked to complete a background and credit check.

Background checks may go as far back in the past as a property manager or landlord deems necessary. They’ll typically focus on any criminal history so it’s best to report any relevant background information when completing your application process.

A credit check accounts for how financially responsible a potential candidate is. They are looking to see if you pay rent on time and if there are any delinquencies in your rental history. Credit scores are a great indicator of making rent.. It would benefit you to report bad credit so that the apartment manager will know if you need a co-signer to help you get the lease.

4. Submit Proof of Income

One of the most important parts of the rental application process is providing proof of employment. Most landlords will ask for recent pay stubs. But they may also ask for tax returns, bank statements, W2-forms, or other ways to prove you have income.


Employment and credit checks can typically take up to 72 hours. The entire rental application process time also varies between properties, so make sure to check with the property manager for a good estimate of when you could potentially move in.

5. Determining if you need a co-signer.

A co-signer, or guarantor, is a third-party individual who is legally responsible for your rent if you’re unable to pay it. This person typically does not typically live in the apartment with you, but they are liable for your lease. A co-signer is required if you have a bad or insufficient credit history.

Co-signers or guarantors can be of assistance when first-time renters lack credit history and cannot show they are able to commit to monthly rent and bill payments. You may need a co-signer in the event that your monthly income is less than three times your rent. Oftentimes, a co-signer may step in to help you strengthen your application and improve your chances of approval. We like to think of them as someone who is vouching for you.


6. Show them that you are a pleasant renter.

As part of the application screening process, future landlords and property managers want to understand the type of tenant you are. They will ask if you were noisy, if you abided by the pet policies, and more. This is typically offered by the previous landlord or property manager in the form of a recommendation letter.

Don’t be discouraged though. This is typically not required by all future landlords, but it can be a great way to improve your chances of getting your application approved if the property is exactly what you want and super popular among renters. A positive letter will help set you apart from other applicants and improve your chances of approval.

7. Offer great personal references

Good personal references may make or break an application, especially in the event that you don’t have a rental history. Much like previous landlord references, it shows that someone is vouching for your character and how dependable you are. Personal references can be from a friend, relative, or colleague who knows your character and can be a witness to your integrity.

The initial process of applying for an apartment can seem very daunting but will be worth it if you get your dream apartment. If everything goes well, you’ll receive a notification that your application is ready to be signed! The final steps of the rental process are to sign your lease and shop for a dependable moving company!

8. Signing the lease!

You’re almost there! Once you’ve successfully passed the application process, inspected the property, and gone through your checklist of essential things you must do before committing to your new apartment, it’s time to sign the lease!

This is when the property manager will discuss upfront costs like your security deposit and any other applicable fees. Deposit requirements are typically state-regulated. Most properties will require the equivalent of one or two months’ worth of rent in case you fall back on rent payments. Make sure to bring a checkbook. This is also a great time for any last-minute questions you might have, such as when you will get the keys and if there are any appliances that you may have to rent or buy for the apartment.

It’s very important to read the lease agreement carefully. Take time to understand all the details of your lease prior to signing the contract before planning your move-in date. Things to look out for are what you will need to do if you need to unexpected break your lease. Once you’ve thoroughly gone through the lease and everything looks fine, sign it and start your move in process!

We hope that you found our guide on how to rent an apartment helpful. Feel free to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest for more apartment tips and inspiration.

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The Apartment Goals team aims to bring you tips on how to make your small living space purposeful and a place you can come home to recharge and relax.

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